Opioid Analgesics

Opioids for Chronic Pain: OxyContin, Vicodin, and More

September 6, 2013 – 11:04

Why it matters

Opiate Pain Relievers for Chronic Pain


Generic Name Brand Name
fentanyl Duragesic
hydrocodone Norco, Vicodin
hydromorphone Dilaudid, Exalgo
morphine Astramorph, Avinza
oxycodone OxyContin, Percocet
Opioids are available in pills, liquids, or suckers to take by mouth, and in shot, skin patch, and suppository form.

How It Works

Opioid analgesics suppress your perception of pain and calm your emotional response to pain by reducing the number of pain signals sent by the nervous system and the brain's reaction to those pain signals.

Why It Is Used

Opioids are used to reduce moderate to severe chronic pain.

How Well It Works

Opioids are effective in relieving moderate to severe chronic pain. Higher doses may work better, but higher doses also can cause more side effects.

If one opioid does not reduce your pain, your doctor may prescribe a different opioid to treat your chronic pain.

There is a low risk of addiction if you take opioids routinely as prescribed. Your risk of addiction is slightly greater if you have a history of substance abuse.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of an overdose, including:
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Confusion.
  • Severe nervousness or restlessness.
  • Severe dizziness, drowsiness, or weakness.
  • Slow breathing.
  • Seizures.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • A fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Redness or flushing of the face.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

You may become physically dependent on opioids if you take them regularly. Physical dependence is not addiction, but it is a gradual change in your body in response to the opioids. If you stop taking opioids abruptly, you may develop nausea, sweating, chills, diarrhea, and shaking. The physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. You can avoid withdrawal symptoms if you gradually stop taking the opioids over a set period of time, as prescribed by your doctor.

Source: www.webmd.com

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